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A panel of experts including former NHL referee Ron Wicks, now a real estate consultant for Canadians investing in this area, will discuss the impact of free trade and Buffalo real estate in the 1990's at the June 26 meeting of the Buffalo Investors Group.

A referee in the National Hockey League for twenty-five years, Wicks has been involved in Canadian real estate during the off season for fifteen years. Earlier this year, he joined Stovroff & Herman's new Canadian division in Mississauga, Ont. as manager, to serve the growing number of investors there interested in Buffalo area real estate.

Joining Wicks on the panel will David C. Eckel, manager of Stovroff and Herman's commercial investment division, which sells and leases a wide range of residential and commercial rental property in Western New York.

William F. Lisnerski, an active area investor who is completing a five study on appreciation rates and rent increases for Buffalo rental property and Ben Fogelson, general manager of Buffalo Properties Unlimited, which manages some 400 apartments, including a large number of singles and small multiples in Buffalo and surrounding areas complete the foursome.

With help from Lisnerski's study, the panel will examine how free trade has affected appreciation rates, rents, and values for residential income property and commercial property in the Buffalo real estate market. Lisnerski, the president of Buffalo Investors Group, will also act as moderator.

Open to the public, the meeting will be held at 7:30 p.m., Tuesday, June 26 at the Buffalo Hilton Hotel. The meeting will include question and answer period and a free buffet afterwards for members and guests. No pre-registration is required.

Eckel and Wicks will discuss how free trade has stimulated demand among Canadian investors in Buffalo and Western New York. Since opening their Ontario office, which gives American property owners access to some 20,000 realtors and sales agents in the Toronto area, interest in property in Buffalo has been rising rapidly, said Eckel.

About seventy-percent of the entire population of Canada is in Ontario and Buffalo is now at the center of a very large key international population base, said Eckel. "We are now becoming a large regional market with investors not only from Canada but from other parts of the United States. Free trade is already having a tremendous impact on this area, especially in real estate. In the old days sales agents would leave the office, saying 'I'll be in Orchard Park, Clarence, East Aurora, or Niagara County.' It was rare if anyone mentioned Canada. But today it is common for agents to say 'I'll be in Toronto or Hamilton for the day.'"

The Buffalo area's traditionally lower rents, market values, and lower building costs help make property here so attractive to Canadian companies and investors. "This is not exactly a new phenomena," said Eckel.

A few years ago Canadians were quite interested in Ellicottville area. Now, he said, there is much more interest in the Buffalo area since it has become an important part of the so called Golden Triangle, the area that sweeps down from Toronto to the Niagara Frontier.

Eckel, who will also pinpoint some of the changes free trade has made in the Buffalo area commercial real estate market, joined Stovroff and Herman fifteen years ago as a sales agent. In 1975, he started the commercial investment division, which sells or leases apartment buildings, store fronts, strip plaza , and office buildings throughout Western New York to investors and companies.

Now one of the largest in the area, his division also sells and develops raw land and condominiums and handles condominium conversions for clients. Annual sales this year for the division are expected to be about $100 million. With the opening of its Mississauga branch, Stovroff and Herman became one of the first area realty firms to have a Canadian office.

Lisnerski will go over figures on purchase prices, appreciation rates and rental incomes from residential apartments in ten areas of Buffalo, a study he began in 1986. Since, then, he said, nearly all areas of the city have enjoyed increases in both property values and rental revenues. His study includes updated figures through 1989. Figures for 1990 are now being added to the study.

"Some areas are showing faster increases than other areas for a variety of reasons," he said. "A double in relatively good shape that sold for $7,000 four years ago in our area might sell for $30,000 today. Some areas are now peaking. Some will peak later. The key for investors in the 1990's will be to determine what areas will be the hot spots tomorrow and further down the line, and why? The 1990's will be a good time for Buffalo rental property, but the competition among investors will be very keen, so to stay ahead of the game, you will have to be very accurate in predicting where new trends will be developing."

Lisnerski began as investor in area property about seven years ago, starting with a twelve-unit building, which he purchased with several other partners for $85,000. He now owns a number of singles, doubles, triples, and larger buildings in Buffalo and surrounding areas.

Fogelson will analyze two case histories, a double in South Buffalo with a storefront, which was purchased in 1986 for $27,175, and a double on Buffalo's Westside, which was bought by the same investor two years ago for $26,950. After two years, the first property was sold for a modest profit. The second building was sold two weeks ago for a profit of about $17,000. Fogelson will examine the numbers for both buildings, including rents, expenses, finance charges, rehab costs, and other factors affecting profitability.

"Despite long term vacancies and high rehab costs, the first property was still able to create a profit, while the second property, a nicer building, was able to do better. With an original investment of $5,000 for his downpayment, the investor was able to realize a profit of $17,178 from the second property in just two years. From analyzing and comparing these two properties we can learn many things, but the overall message is that in many areas you do not have to be working with a cream puff to make a profit from rental income property in Buffalo. The reason is simple: The Golden Age for Buffalo rental real estate has arrived, and it is going to be good for at least the next ten years."

Fogelson has been an active investor in area property for the past six years. Two years ago, he was named manager of Buffalo Property Unlimited, a full-service property management firm, which specializes in managing rental property, in particular singles, doubles, triples, and four-unit buildings in Buffalo, Cheektowaga, Orchard Park, Tonawanda, and other areas. The firm also manages larger properties, including some store fronts and office buildings. The firm now manages nearly 400 units.

The guest fee for non-members is $10 at the door for individuals and $15 for couples. B.I.G. members will be admitted without charge. For more information, call 668-0094.

Founded in 1978, the group offers members free monthly meetings, a free monthly property management club, educational seminars at reduced costs, and other programs and benefits. Annual dues are $75 for individual members. Special rates are also available for husband and wife memberships. Monthly meeting fees can be applied toward annual dues for thirty days after a meeting.

The group includes members who own apartments and other types of residential and commercial rental property throughout Western New York. The group meets the last Tuesday of each month at the Buffalo Hilton Hotel. For more information, area residents can call 668-0094.

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